Sponsorships are one of the best opportunities to both support causes you and your business are passionate about and increase brand recognition. But another often unspoken benefit of sponsoring your local events is the potential to form new partnerships in your local community. Whether with event organizers or simply parallel businesses, sponsorships are a fantastic first step to take when seeking a partnership with a like-minded business. Forming a lasting partnership, however, is often easier said than done. It is imperative, then, for small business owners to understand both sponsorship and partnership best practices that you should bring to the table each time you’re considering sponsoring an event; you may just change your business forever.
Don’t Sponsor for the Sake of It
Businesses enthusiastic about upping brand awareness may be quick to sponsor multiple (potentially lower-priced) events in their local area but this is often a misstep. While having your company logo present at several local events is a good way to maybe increase that logo’s recognition, this isn’t particularly likely to help your business form a lucrative partnership with either the event organizers or any non-competing businesses in your area. “Quality, not quantity” is the name of the game when your business wants to see results from your local sponsorship.
Go out of your way to connect your business with events that focus on your target audiences and those who are most likely to be enthusiastic about your business. Aligning your business with the proper event can be a lengthy process but that effort is almost never wasted.
Speak to Organizers Directly
Get on the phone, or better yet, get in your car and meet with event organizers directly. It is, admittedly, very easy and much less time consuming to run all your correspondences through email; and this has become the standard for many sponsorships today. But if you genuinely want both your sponsorship to stick and eventually form a lasting partnership, you and your business must be recognized for putting in extra effort worthy of recognition. If event organizers know you by name and face, you are already doing your business a major favor.
Another major benefit to personal correspondence is the potential to meet other sponsors or parallel businesses. Use the time in meetings and planning before your event begins to set the stage for great partnerships; you can’t do that as effectively over email. Plus, those businesses and sponsors who also make an appearance and meet with organizers directly are likely some of your best candidates for meaningful partnerships as their business’s interests are very likely to align with your own.
Physical Presence at Every Event
This furthers the point that the basis of forming partnerships is showing up and showing that your business cares. Be certain that each and every event that your business sponsors has a physical presence; and not just anyone: make sure that the employees and representatives who are going to events on your behalf are enthusiastic, and ready to answer questions about your business. If a parallel non-competing business makes contact at an event, the worst-case scenario is making a lukewarm first impression.
Take on Big Ticket Events with Partner Vendor
Sponsoring larger events with more eyeballs and bigger ticket slots can be a major investment for small businesses; that is if they do it alone. Ask event organizers if you and a partnering business can share a sponsorship tier. This way, you both further a partnership with that relevant business and are more likely to increase the return on investment at your sponsored event of choice.
Cold calling for a partnership isn’t always the best bet, so sharing a big-ticket sponsor spot can be a great strategy to get closer to a business you think may make a good partner. Think tactically for your business but don’t forget that the nature of a sponsorship is supporting the cause you are backing. Some event management teams, however, may turn down split ticket sponsorships, as it may devalue higher-priced slots. In that case, get creative with your fellow sponsors and think of ways to work together for mutual exposure at your event of choice.
Write personalized, handwritten where possible, thank you notes to event organizers after a successful sponsorship. And quickly follow up on any leads that came up during the event. Lasting partnerships are born out of mutual respect and time spent, so it is imperative that your business shows a meaningful gesture of gratitude and good will quickly after your event ends. While this may sound obvious, these steps bear repeating. Especially for small businesses who do not have a dedicated marketing or event coordination team, small gestures like these are the most likely to slip through the cracks after a time-consuming event.
Greater Involvement, Greater Results
Any small business can form a partnership and any small business can pay for a sponsor slot; that’s the easy part. Making that sponsorship both engaging and likely to attract interest from relevant parties is naturally a lengthy process. But this article isn’t called “how to make a partnership,” the word “lasting” implies that you and your business must make a lasting impression on those businesses you plan to partner with and event organizers who believe in your business. Putting in visible extra effort and showing genuine interest in the event at hand are non optional ventures.